Homily by Fr. Paul Plante
6th Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2009
Scriptural Reference: 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17
The beautiful and lofty commandment of love which is at the heart of who we are as Christians is certainly evident in today’s readings. It is a theme that weaves throughout the Bible, but is especially prominent in the writings of St. John. So blessed with two of his writings in today’s liturgy we get an extra dose of the importance of love in our tradition.
But I wonder if at times it is just words – just a nice lofty ideal – and not always translated in all of our thinking and actions.
Perhaps because it is so fresh, I could not help but connect the recent Clergy Institute that I attended this past week with the love that is meant to be present in all that we do as an individual Catholic, a parish, a Diocese, a Universal Church.
And so though this year’s study days touched upon many practical issues, even these practical issues have to be connected to our primary commandment of loving and caring.
We had a couple of talks on the process of receiving adults in the faith. How important it is to appreciate the faith some of them already have; that those who have already been baptized or faithfully practiced another Christian denomination are to be treated with the respect due to the spiritual growth that is already theirs. At times, in terms of knowledge and appreciation of God’s Word – the Bible – certain candidates seeking to become Catholics already know much more than most Catholics.
We listened to a couple for whom Marriage Encounter had done marvels for their marriage and are now totally dedicated to making Marriage Encounter available here in Maine. It is a resource for married couples that I certainly encourage.
We were given more information on marriage preparation – both for couples entering marriage for the first time as well as couples who in a civil marriage wanting that marriage convalidated – blessed as we often say – out of concern for the couple and the sanctity of the Sacrament of Marriage.
We were invited to make sure couples know that Catholic marriage is different from civil marriage.
We spent a whole day on the priesthood and vocations to the priesthood. Part of it was personal soul-searching – seriously wondering why my own priesthood does not attract more young men to think about becoming priests. More has to be done to make this vocation known and appreciated. Our love for the Church, especially for the Eucharist has to make it foster vocations to this great gift from Jesus. There is so much good to be done. Why aren’t more young men attracted to this great opportunity?
We got an update on our priestly personal issues – not enough of us around, more churches unable to have Mass every week-end, several of our priests who are sick, one recuperating from surgery as serious as a liver transplant, the reality that we now have approximately the same number of retired priests as are active in parishes.
We were given updates on dealing justly with employees, means of resolving conflict, the importance of effective fundraising – currently the Bishop’s Appeal – over a period of time in the whole Diocese – a Capital Campaign – the Catholic Foundation – to prepare for the future.
What struck me and inspired me about the Capital Campaign is that even in our difficult economy, so far there has been much generosity. It is actually more successful than most of us might have predicted.
Isn’t that a sign of true love for the Church, for its future to sacrifice money in an unsettling time?